TAMPA – Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston has produced some absolutely eye-popping numbers during his first two-plus years in the NFL, and indeed most of them are the kind any quarterback would be proud of.
Winston, for example, was the first quarterback ever to throw for more than 4,000 yards in each of his first two NFL seasons and his 50 touchdown passes over that span were the fifth most by a young quarterback.
At the same time, Winston has produced at least one stat that no quarterback can be proud of because it’s the kind that quarterbacks, coaches, teammates and fans can only wince at when they see it.
Through 41 career starts, Winston has turned the ball over 50 times, including 39 times via interceptions and 11 times via fumbles like the one he lost Sunday during the Bucs 26-20 loss to the Packers in Green Bay.
That is an unconscionable number and if you’re wondering why Winston has suddenly begun to fade from the conversation regarding the game’s best young quarterbacks, well wonder no more.
That stat alone tells you that for all the ways in which Winston can win a game for you, there are two ways in which he can and far too often loses games for you, and it happened again on Sunday.
On a first-and-10 play from the Packers 30-yard line, which means the Bucs were already in position to tie a game in which they were trailing 10-7 midway through the second quarter, Winston got greedy.
As he is wont to do and sometimes does rather well, Winston tried to keep a dying play alive when the better option would have been to let the play die out and live for another down.
Instead, while he was being taken down by nose tackle Kenny Clark, Winston tried to throw a pass (he says) to tight end Cameron Brate, who was nowhere in the vicinity at the time.
Who was in the vicinity was defensive lineman Dean Lowry, who grabbed Winston’s attempted throw out of mid air and ran the ball back 62 yards for a highlight reel touchdown.
— Green Bay Packers (@packers) December 3, 2017
For Winston, it was just another one of those plays that “he would like to have back,’’ as Bucs coach Dirk Koetter has had to say far too many times the last three years.
“That definitely can be an issue,’’ Koetter said of the downside of Winston’s refusal to quit on plays. “That’s something we’ve talked about many times, because Jameis is going to make some plays (in those situations).
“And that one there, in a perfect world, he would’ve gotten the ball out of his hands. But they were quick on him, and you’ve got to remember, he’s 23-years old and experience is still the best teacher.’’
You would think that a coach would be the best teacher but when the coach is hesitant to coach the competiveness out of Winston as the Bucs coaches are, then the lesson has to be learned through experience.
The only problem with that is, Winston does not appear to be learning from experience. Even bad experiences. After all, the play Winston tried to make Sunday was very similar to one he tried to make during a preseason game this year against Jacksonville.
The only difference was that that one occurred inside the red zone and that an official ruled Winton down by contact, thereby negating the interception he threw into the end zone while laying flat on his back.
Koetter gave Winston an earful on that one of course, telling him “You can’t do that ever, ever, ever,’’ to which Winston responded, “I got it.’’ Except it’s clear now that Winston still hasn’t got it.
Winston either hasn’t learned at all from that mistake or he refuses to learn from it because he would rather continue to put his team at risk than change out of his gunslinger persona.
As long as that remains the case, Winston will continue to stunt not only his own growth as a quarterback but the growth of the Buccaneers as a franchise and potential playoff contender.
And if that continues and Winston fails to ever achieve his goal of being a true franchise quarterback for a Super Bowl champions, well, he’ll have only himself to blame.
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